Surely Easter is the time of year when we should spare a thought for the Messiah's less successful competitors? Here's Richard Herring, from the November issue, on one who never quite made it.
I was sitting in a local coffee shop in Hammersmith, failing to write. As I stared out of the window for inspiration I was surprised to see a bedraggled, bearded figure, standing stock-still, glaring back at me. He resembled John the Baptist, but not as wet and with one more head. For one unsettling moment I wondered if only I could see him.
Then I spotted what it was that made him truly unsettling. He was holding up a piece of white cardboard. It wasn’t even a shop-bought bit of cardboard, but one of those shallow cardboard boxes that tins are shipped in. And written on it in neat bubble writing were the words “God raised crucified son Jshua from the dead. Pure almighty Jshua reigns.” He held up the sign long enough for people to read, his eyes flashing slightly. He then started moving away, but saw me looking and immediately resumed his waxwork pose to hold it up again. Then, satisfied that I had taken in his message, he left.
In the couple of hours I sat working he came back to the window four more times. He was clearly walking up and down King Street showing people his sign, spreading the word.
Now, firstly, I liked this as an advertising technique. He was much less in your face than that infuriating fanatic with the megaphone who used to stand outside Oxford Circus tube. After all, when a man has just a cardboard box with some writing on it, which he holds up, you can choose to read it or look away. He wasn’t badgering anyone. He just wanted them to know about Jshua, who he thought was pure and reigning. It was polite. It was informative. Though sadly his gospel was somewhat truncated by the size of the box. Perhaps an “Ask me for more information if you’re interested” could be added on a little hanging sign on the bottom.
Secondly I felt a bit sorry for Jshua, someone I hadn’t heard of before. While Jesus gets a bloke with a megaphone (and, let’s face it, quite a formidable army of preachers and institutions bigging him up), Jshua only has a silent bearded man with a cardboard box. Of course the true Messiah would have a humble sign, which makes me warm to the mysterious Jshua. But then Jshua is clearly also being pitted against the much better-known Jesus, who was also crucified and the son of God. I was really beginning to feel that we needed more than the bottom of a cardboard box to talk up this divine figure to a not particularly responsive Hammersmith.
Of course there was always the chance that this wild-eyed proselytiser was just a dyslexic Christian who had misspelled the name of his saviour. Or the even more unlikely possibility that Jshua was just an alternative name for Jesus. Surely no one would cloud the issue by trying to popularise a slightly different name now that the Jesus brand is so successful? It took some effort to turn Opal Fruits into Starburst. So, in this age of the internet and TV commercials and product placement, it seemed a bit optimistic to place much faith in this somewhat limited form of promotion.
Screw it though. I’ve always liked the underdog. So from now on if anyone asks me which religion I support, I’m going to answer “Jshuaism”. Which has the additional benefit of sounding like a scary martial art. Pure Almighty Jshua reigns. Spread the word.
And if you don’t believe ... actually nothing that bad will happen. That’s what makes Jshuaism really cool. Take it or leave it. If only the other religions were as undemonstrative.